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Oscar Nominations Predictions 2021: Who Gets In?

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The 2021 Oscar nominations are upon us, even if the Oscars themselves are still a couple of months away. It is, in fact, the weirdest Oscars in my ten years of covering them professionally, and it’s a bit ironic that during a year in which almost all the presumed Best Picture nominees are streaming, it feels like interest from the general public is the lowest it’s been in decades. That’s not a reflection of the quality of the films – there are some genuinely fantastic movies, performances, and crafts up for the Oscars this year – but maybe more a reflection of how, without a big splashy theatrical release, it’s much harder for a film to tap into the zeitgeist.

That also seriously handicaps Oscar prognosticating this year, as nothing was normal. There was no big festival season in which a frontrunner emerged. There was no box office bump for a populist film. There was no late-coming surprise. We’re flying blind here, so to that end I have done my best with the following Oscar nominations predictions, but I would not be surprised to see some, well, surprises.

To that end I say bring ‘em on. If this is gonna be a weird Oscar year, make it really weird. For now, though, here’s how I see the major Oscar nominees shaping up when they’re announced on Monday morning, with each player ranked in order of likelihood to be nominated.

Best Picture

Nomadland Frances McDormand
Image via Searchlight Pictures

Nomadland

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Minari

Mank

Promising Young Woman

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

One Night in Miami…

Sound of Metal

Judas and the Black Messiah

Major Threats: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, The Father, Da 5 Bloods, News of the World

The bulk of the Best Picture lineup has been fairly set for the last couple of months now. There are five mainstays who feel like a lock to land nominations at this point: Nomadland, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Minari, Mank, and Promising Young Woman. All earned PGA nominations, which is a frequent bellwether for Best Picture nominees, and all have fared incredibly well with critics groups and precursor awards alike. So count on those appearing, barring any major shockers.

RELATED: 2020 Producers Guild Award Nominations Could Be a Glimpse at Our Best Picture Field

Outside that lineup, Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom feels pretty safe to get in – especially after earning a PGA nomination – and ditto to Amazon’s One Night in Miami… and Sound of Metal, as well as Warner Bros.’ Judas and the Black Messiah. The latter is the latest entry in the Oscar race and if anything misses the cut I think it’s this Fred Hampton film, which earned positive yet slightly mixed reviews. On the outside looking in, there’s a chance Borat Subsequent Moviefilm earns a nod as it got a PGA nomination, and in terms of longer shots non-PGA-nominated The Father, Da 5 Bloods, and News of the World are possibilities. But if you ask me, the lineup above is pretty set.

Best Director

Photo by Merie Weismiller Wallace / Focus Features

Chloe Zhao – Nomadland

Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7

David Fincher – Mank

Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman

Lee Isaac Chung – Minari

Major Threats: Regina King (One Night in Miami…), Paul Greengrass (News of the World), George C. Wolfe (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)

This year’s Best Director lineup is almost certain to make history, it’s merely a question of by how wide a margin. Never before have two women been nominated for the Best Director Oscar, but that feels almost guaranteed to happen this year. Chloe Zhao is a lock for a nomination for her Best Picture frontrunner Nomadland, while Emerald Fennell and Regina King have been picking up recognition left and right for Promising Young Woman and One Night in Miami… respectively. PYW is the “showier” of the two directing-wise, but King is a beloved figure in the industry and her restrained approach to One Night in Miami… is equally brilliant. If all three get in, then it feels likely that Aaron Sorkin or David Fincher gets knocked out, although somewhat surprisingly Sorkin feels like the safer bet to stay in here.

The DGA nominees were Zhao, Fennell, Sorkin, Fincher, and Minari’s Lee Isaac Chung. I’m going with that exact lineup for Oscars, but I feel like any of the men could be swapped out for King, or potentially Fennell although PYW has been performing really strongly. Again, history is likely to be made either way, so this is an exciting category.

Best Actress

ma-raineys-black-bottom-viola-davis-netflix-car
Image via Netflix

Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

Frances McDormand – Nomadland

Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman

Andra Day – The United States vs. Billie Holliday

Major Threats: Michelle Pfeiffer (French Exit), Yeri Han (Minari)

This year’s Best Actress race has been pretty set for some time now, and the extremely safe bets are Frances McDormand, Carey Mulligan, and Viola Davis. McDormand and Davis are Oscar winners already, but Mulligan has pulled ahead in terms of who’s likeliest to take this thing home right now (although there’s still a ways to go). But Vanessa Kirby’s rave reviews should also vault her into position for Netflix’s Pieces of a Woman, while Andra Day – who won the Golden Globe for Best Actress – is likely to score her first nod for The United States vs. Billie Holliday. I can’t really foresee any major shakeups here, although it would be nice to see Yeri Han get recognized.

RELATED: Amanda Seyfried Takes Us From Lessons Learned on ‘Mean Girls’ to Making ‘Mank’ With David Fincher

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Image via Netflix

Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Anthony Hopkins – The Father

Steven Yeun – Minari

Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal

Gary Oldman – Mank

Major Threats: Tahar Rahim (The Mauritanian), Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods), LaKeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah)

Boy what a stacked category. Chadwick Boseman is far and away the favorite to win this year, so the rest are playing for a consolation prize. Anthony Hopkins, Steven Yeun, and Riz Ahmed are pretty safe, but I honestly would not be shocked if Gary Oldman was left out of the race here. Mank was largely ignored by the Screen Actors Guild save for Oldman, and it feels like a movie that will perform better with branches outside the Actors one. Still, I’m counting on Oldman getting in, but if he doesn’t there’s a prime opportunity for a surprise from The Mauritanian’s Tahar Rahim or Delroy Lindo, a critics favorite who seems to have fallen just outside the likeliest nominations circle as awards groups have cooled on Da 5 Bloods as a whole.

Best Supporting Actress

Minari Yuh Jung Youn
Image via A24

Olivia Colman – The Father

Yuh-Jung Youn – Minari

Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Dominique Fishback – Judas and the Black Messiah

Jodie Foster – The Mauritanian

Major Threats: Amanda Seyfried (Mank), Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Helena Zengel (News of the World)

This category could be wild. Anything could happen all the way up through Oscar night. Olivia Colman, Yuh-Jung Youn, and Maria Bakalova feel pretty safe to me, but I’m predicting Amanda Seyfried to fall just outside (despite an excellent performance) in favor of the currently more buzzworthy Dominique Fishback and Jodie Foster. But who knows, maybe Glenn Close will score a nomination after all? Maybe the young Helena Zengel breaks into the pack?

RELATED: Maria Bakalova on ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’, Sacha Baron Cohen’s Mentorship, and Much More

Best Supporting Actor

Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah
Image via Warner Bros.

Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah

Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7

Paul Raci – Sound of Metal

Leslie Odom Jr. – One Night in Miami…

Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods

Major Threats: Jared Leto (The Little Things), Alan Kim (Minari), Mark Rylance (The Trial of the Chicago 7)

There are two scenarios for this category: one in which Jared Leto gets nominated for a kind-of-bad performance in Warner Bros.’ The Little Things, and one in which he does not. I’m predicting the latter, but understand it could very well be the former. At any rate, Daniel Kauuya feels the safest here for his excellent turn as Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah, while Sacha Baron Cohen is also a pretty easy bet for playing Abbie Hoffman in Chicago 7. Then there’s the very deserving Paul Raci from Sound of Metal, who I think gets in, as well as Leslie Odom Jr. who feels like the best bet for an acting nom for One Night in Miami… — although it’s possible Aldis Hodge gets nominated here instead. The big question mark is whether the Academy will bestow Boseman with two nominations or one, and his Da 5 Bloods nom is far from assured. The young Alan Kim is a possibility for Minari, and yes, so is Leto. As with Supporting Actress, this category is pretty unpredictable this year.

Best Original Screenplay

Sacha Baron Cohen in Trial of the Chicago 7
Image via Netflix

Promising Young Woman

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Mank

Minari

Sound of Metal

Major Threats: Palm Springs, Soul, Judas and the Black Messiah

The frontrunners here appear to be Chicago 7 and Promising Young Woman, but Jack Fincher’s script for Mank has also been a bit of a mainstay in this category, Minari is well-loved (and deserving), and Sound of Metal picked up a WGA nomination so that’s what’s guiding my thinking right now. Pixar in the past has broken into this category, but the controversy surrounding Soul appears to have drowned out the enthusiasm for that film to score a nomination in the major categories. Judas and the Black Messiah and Palm Springs picked up WGA noms so they could sneak in, and I would be especially delighted to see the latter earn a nomination. If there’s a surprise here, I think Palm Springs is it.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Maria Bakalova and Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat 2
Image via Amazon Studios

Nomadland

One Night in Miami…

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

The Father

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Major Threats: News of the World, The White Tiger, The Mauritanian

As the Best Picture frontrunner Nomadland is the favorite here, and the rest of the category seems to be filling out rather expectedly. Remember the first Borat earned a Best Original Screenplay nomination, so a nod for the sequel is actually fairly expected – although I could see WGA nominee The White Tiger surprising with a nod here instead of The Father.

KEEP READING: Every Best Actor Winner of the 21st Century Ranked From Worst to Best

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